Khabib Nurmagomedov announced his retirement after beating Gaethje with a triangle choke in round two and capping his 29th unbeaten fight at the UFC 254.
The stout Russian announced his unexpected retirement following the death of his father: “Today I want to say this is my last fight. No way am I coming here without my father.”
His father and coach, Abdulmanap, died from complications caused by coronavirus earlier this year. This was Nurmagomedov’s first fight since his father.
Nurmagomedov, 32, extended his unbeaten record to 29-0 with a second-round submission win in Abu Dhabi – his third successful title defense, having previously beaten Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier.
In an emotional post-fight interview, Nurmagomedov said: “Today I want to say this is my last fight. No way am I coming here without my father. When UFC called me about Justin I spoke with my mother for three days.
“She didn’t want me to fight without father and I said this is my last fight – and I have given her my word.
“Thank you so much Justin. I know you are great, I know how you take care of your people. Be close with your parents, because you never know what is going to happen tomorrow.
“Thank you coach, thank you guys. Today is my last fight in the UFC. It was my father’s dream. Justin and Conor will fight in January, I have choked both out, I am not interested in this.”
Nurmagomedov remains one of the best fighters in mixed martial arts history and left the art with an unbroken record.